Retiring Woman of the Year will return for homecoming events
Katie Herring graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in May with a degree in public relations and a minor in creative writing. She served as president and chief of staff in the Student Government Association, was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, was a Presidential Ambassador and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Herring is Southeast's retiring Woman of the Year, which is awarded at halftime during Southeast's football game on homecoming weekend.
Q: What have you achieved since graduating from Southeast, and how did you end up where you are?
A: Since graduating from Southeast this past May, I have joined Teach For America, a non-profit that trains and places teachers in low-income communities throughout the United States. I currently teach first grade on the Rosebud Reservation in Mission, S.D.
Teaching is easily the most difficult thing I have ever done, but it is also the most rewarding. I feel called to be here. I have done volunteer work in South Dakota before, and there is just something about the needs of this place that get at my heart. I have some of the kindest, brightest students in the whole world who surprise and inspire me every day. The work is hard, but when I step back and take an objective look at my life, I would not have it any other way.
Q: Are you excited to visit Southeast during homecoming?
A: I would not miss it for the world. My plane ticket is bought, my dresses are hanging in my closet and some days knowing that I will be home soon is what keeps me going. In many ways, I grew up at Southeast. I learned so much, and I am blessed with so many close relationships there that it is hard to be so far away. But that is what is supposed to happen, I think. It's a part of growing up. Southeast still holds such a special place in my heart though, and I cannot wait to see everyone in a few weeks.
Q: How did you feel being nominated for Woman of the Year and becoming a finalist?
A: Honestly, it was very surreal. Every Woman of the Year who won during my time at Southeast was a mentor to me in some capacity. They are all women that I admire greatly to this day, and to be considered in the same light as them was an honor to say the least.
Q : How did it feel to win Woman of the Year?
A: I sort of think of that day in snapshots. Riding in the parade with Zack Tucker, trying to talk to people as we drove past and horribly failing. Sitting with my family at the game, my stomach in knots. Walking out to the field, worried I was going to trip and make a fool of myself. Hearing my name and feeling surprised and happy and confused about where to walk. Smiling for 1,000 pictures with one of my best friends, Patrick [Vining]. Celebrating that night with a lot of people I love. It was one of the best days I can remember, not necessarily because of the honor itself as much as all of the people I got to share it with.
Q: Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known while you were in college?
A: If I could sit down with freshman Katie, I would tell her to lighten up a little bit. My last year at Southeast, I really took a step back and I tried to invest in relationships instead of responsibilities. Sometimes that involved sitting in the Alpha Chi lounge until 5 a.m. talking or squeezing in coffee trips between sessions in the Mac lab, but those are the moments and memories that matter. Those are some of the relationships that I am still relying on now, even though we practically live in two different worlds these days. People matter more than checklists. I wish I would have recognized that more during my four years at Southeast.